RxRights response to Star Tribune editorial

This response was submitted to the Star Tribune on 1/26. It’s unclear if it will be published so we are posting it here too.

The January 22 editorial “It’s up to Congress to curb the high costs of prescription drugs” is spot on. It’s time Congress moves “beyond political theater” on this issue. House Democrats held a hearing on drug affordability late last year, as did the Senate Special Committee on Aging. The Department of Health and Human Services held a forum in late November as well. A bipartisan House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on drug pricing is scheduled for February 4.

But as Congress continues to talk about this problem we all agree exists, consumers continue to suffer.

No real follow up action has come from the hearings that have taken place or the forum. Meanwhile, consumers are waiting for relief. There is bipartisan support for Senator Amy Klobuchar’s legislation to allow the personal importation of cheaper medications from Canada. This is a common sense and immediate solution to the problem of exorbitant drug prices.

Since legislation to address the drug pricing problem has been slow to more forward, we’re encouraged by a new strategy to use existing law to make medication more affordable. More than 50 members of Congress sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell and National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins requesting the development of official guidelines to discourage drug price gouging. The letter asserts the Bayh-Dole Act gives the NIH “march-in” rights to introduce generic competition if a patented drug that received federal funding for development is unreasonably priced.

The HHS and NIH should use their authority to bring relief to consumers struggling to pay exorbitant drug prices. A focus on diabetes medications is especially needed. We’ve heard from hundreds of diabetics across the country that simply can’t afford the rising cost of insulin.

Insulin is a life-saving drug that has been around for nearly 100 years. New and improved formulations of the drug allow companies to continue patenting novel versions of the hormone and increasing the price. But in recent years, shocking price increases have occurred on existing versions of the drug.

Too many consumers are unable to afford their needed medications. Too many have to choose between food and medicine. Unaffordable medicine is a public health crisis that must be dealt with now—before it’s too late.

Lee Graczyk
Lead Organizer